Ghost blogging: Just don’t do it

A topic that’s guaranteed to provoke some passionate opinion is that of ghost blogging: whether it’s right or wrong and whether you should do it or not in a business context in particular.

I have written about it before, most recently in July in a post that resulted in a terrific discussion in the comments.

The topic came up again this week following the Dell B2B Social Media Huddle on December 7 (a post soon about that), during which I presented on social media trends and observations and included this slide about maintaining trust:

At one point, I said that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone that they ghost blog, even if they disclose the fact, the reasons for which I made clear in my July post.

So I’ve been reading a post by Stuart Bruce (who was at the huddle) with some good arguments about ghost blogging, plus Vikki Chowney’s asking the question: Ghostwritten blogs: wrong or right?

For the record, here’s what I think. There’s nothing inherently wrong with ghost blogging when you disclose the fact that your blog posts are ghost-written by someone other than you, the named writer (or whoever in your company is the supposed blogger). If you really do believe in transparency, truthfulness and trust, that’s the extent of disclosure you would make – the fully Monty.

But let me further say that the very idea of someone writing your posts for you, even with disclosure, is a very bad idea and not worth doing at all. A blog is about the people you engage with through your writing getting some insight into you, the person, over time in addition to connecting with your thinking, views, opinions, etc, as expressed in your writing. So I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, client or anyone else.

The analogy I usually express goes like this: You start a blog, write posts, and over time you see that people are reading your stuff and engaging as evidenced by measures like inbound links, trackbacks, comments, retweets, etc, even comments to you directly via email, Twitter, and that good old standby, face to face.

So imagine how you the blog reader would feel when (not if) you discover one day that all the content that struck you in some way written by Bill Smith the CEO was actually written by Jim Jones the PR flack – and that fact wasn’t disclosed anywhere, leaving you with the perfectly reasonable assumption that the blog which says it’s Bill Smith’s has content that is actually written by Bill Smith (“terrific, a busy guy, great that he makes time to write a blog”).

Maybe worse is when you finally meet your blogging hero face to face and quickly discover you know more about his or her content and supposed beliefs on certain topics than he or she does.

Bottom line – if you can’t write your own posts for whatever reason and want to have someone else do it on your behalf, then don’t do it at all: find another means to express your voice where you are the person who does that, not a proxy.

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Jas Dhaliwal

    Totally agree with you. Ghost blogging whether disclosed or undisclosed feels a little like cheating the reader! If someone is taking time out to read and absorb your content, a connection of trust forms between reader and writer. The impact of that content will be lessened somewhat upon the discovery that someone else actually wrote it.

    To better explain, think of it in this analogy. If you are attending a concert and discover that the artist is miming, how would you feel? You know it is the artist’s voice coming out of the speakers. But psychologically the impact is lost. Add feelings of distrust and you have a big problem.

    I firmly believe that if a blog post is signed with your name, YOU should be the one writing the piece. Can you really capture the hearts and minds of the community, through ghost writing. I argue not.

  2. The Digital Week «

    […] you write my blog for me? The theoretical debate rages even more regularly and Neville Hobson has posted again on this topic. He sees the issue of ghost blogging in much the same way as Porter Novelli and that is that we […]

  3. Charles

    I’ve had a client recently who was disinclined to blog because of a lack of confidence in the quality of his writing. To help him overcome this I will be proof-reading and copy editing where necessary. This kind of hand-holding doesn’t equate to ghost writing in my opinion, it’s just refining the writer’s output. Some people just need training wheels for a while.

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